Intro. To Law
Courts & Procedure
"Law Lessongs" are Law lessons in song. Students learn in varied and diverse ways. Music can be an effective tool in presenting a lesson or providing a durable memory mechanism (think of a pre-schooler learning the ABC's). Please listen to the songs (click on the large highlighted title). Feel free to use them in class. Also, please send me your comments and suggestions at the e-mail address below. If nothing else, hopefully they make class more interesting. Many of theses topics deal with Commercial law, since that was the class where I needed to generate some interest to combat bland content.
All songs: Lead vocals and Guitar: Mark DeAngelis; Background vocals: Brighid DeAngelis: Recorded at the University of Connecticut television studio - special thanks to Lisa Kempter
This song helps bust the popular myth that law is predictable and certain. I use it along with the discussion of stare decisis in the Legal Environment course.
The old story goes something like this:
The law professor addressed the class of law school graduates - "Three years ago, if you were asked, 'What is the law?' on a particular subject, you could only answer, 'I don't know.' Now, after three years of legal education you can answer with great confidence, 'It depends!'"
It’s Not Certain, It Depends
In Kelo v. New London the Supreme Court clarified the definition of "public use," authorizing government to exercise its power to take private property (eminent domain). This song reminds students of the requirements for a proper exercise of the power while summarizing the Kelo case.
The Case For Eminent Domain (The Ballad of Susette Kelo)
One of the challenges for the drafters of the Constitution was to create a central government with enough power to be effective yet not so powerful as to be oppressive. One of the devices employed is the concept of "enumerated powers." With power residing in "the people," the National (Federal) Government was given only the powers specifically enumerated in the Constitution. State Governments, those being made up of "the people," were endowed with an inherent police power - to regulate the health, safety, welfare and morals of its citizens. I use the Commerce Clause cases to illustrate enumerated powers and Gonzales v. Raich (medicinal marijuana) to examine the tensions between Federal and State powers.
Here's a bit of fun with both Procedural and Substantive Due Process. Hopefully students will remember: notice and opportunity to be heard, fair warning and fundamental liberties.
Students are certainly familiar with the phrase, "beyond a reasonable doubt," but may be unsure of its proper context. Hopefully this song helps to properly locate the concept as well as introducing "fair preponderance of the evidence" and "clear and convincing evidence standards."
Burden of Proof
This song covers trial court and appellate court hierarchy and jurisdiction.
Court System Song
Negligence Law in a musical nutshell is the goal of this song. That's a lot to try to fit into one song, but hopefully the basic elements and highlights are adequately covered. As with all the songs, some classroom clarification and explanation is suggested.
Take It Reasonably
Unlike the prior song that tries to cover all of negligence law, this one tackles only a single issue of defamation law - the element of proof of actual malice required of public figures making defamation claims. The tune here is "First Cut is The Deepest." Students are likely to be familiar with the Sheryl Crow version. However, this song tracks the original Cat Stevens version or the Linda Ronstadt version, which gave me a few more lines of text that I needed for explanation of the legal concept.
Public Figures Need “Malice”
This song is a summary of 4 of the principal business organizations. I use it in connection with a group project where students, in groups of 3, must investigate how to create each of theses 4 business forms and then choose one to create in order to run a fast food restaurant. The song hopefully points them to the basic characteristics of each.
Business Organizations Song
Lyrics by M. DeAngelis
When does negotiation coalesce into an offer that may be accepted? This view looks to language, surrounding circumstances and certainty and definiteness as factors to consider in finding an outward manifestation of present intent to be bound to a contract. I hope that it is useful to you.
The Offer’s Real
I offer, I promise, I covenant to
This song deals with the issues of acceptance of contract offers. At Common Law, the Mirror Image Rule required that the acceptance language mirror that of the offer. Any different or additional language may convert the attempted acceptance into a counteroffer - terminating the ability to accept the original offer. The modern trend is for courts to soften the MIR by looking at the substance and meaning of additional language - finding counteroffers where the attempted acceptance manifests an intent to contract only under the new or different terms.
Mirror Image Rule
Students seem to have some difficulty grasping the non-competition clause rules. I often get the answer, "Well, she should be bound by it because she signed it and it's not illegal." But isn't that the question? When is a non-competition clause legal (not in conflict with public policy)? This is a different kind of illegality than students are accustomed to. Hopefully this song reminds students of the balancing test that goes into consideration of enforcement.
Words by: M. DeAngelis
How about a non-competition clause,
This song follows a hypothetical where a contractor builds a new dormitory at a college. At some point, the job is "done." But is a construction job ever really "done?" There are always punch list items to be completed. The song and example hopefully allow you to explore what level of performance is acceptable and what constitutes a breach. (In the heating work, the breach is material; in the case of the malfunctioning locks, the breach may be minor depending on how many locks are involved.) Also, there is the opportunity to distinguish between substantial performance under the contract and the performance of substantial work under the contract.
The Substantial Performance Song
words by Mark DeAngelis
“We’re done!” the builder said,
Six types of contracts that require a writing - set to a Caribbean classic.
Statute of Frauds
The mixed contract or "hybrid contract" involving both services and the sale of goods can be problematic for students. If the contract is predominantly one for the sale of goods, then the law of article 2 of the UCC applies. Often, this determination, that of which law applies, leads to an obvious resolution of the underlying legal issue. This song does not so much present students with strategies to make this determination, but acts as a reminder to do the "predominant purpose" analysis in the first place.
The Mixed Contract Song
Just last week I went to the store
A mixed contract, if issues arise,
This Form is Your Form (Battle of the Forms Song)
In my experience, the Battle of Forms issue under the UCC seems to give students dreadful problems. The rules under the UCC can be confusing because there is a general rule for non-merchants, a different rule for merchants and then exceptions to the rule. So, you end up with "if this then that but if this then that but if this, this or this, then something else." I think that the song helps!
This Form is Your Form
Words by M. DeAngelis
If you’re a merchant, our forms do battle.
Between merchants, new terms are binding,
Students are often intimidated by commercial paper law. However, the first issue is usually determining whether or not an instrument is negotiable. And this involves little more than remembering the 8 requirements and a few simple rules about when those requirements are met. I think that this little country ditty takes a lot of the formality and mystery out of the process.
by Mark DeAngelis
This song explores some of the issues regarding qualifying for HDC status and why the status is important to determine.
Holder in Due Course Blues
By Mark DeAngelis
Holder in Due Course Blues (Reprise)
Mark DeAngelis, JD; Asst. Prof. in Residence, BLAW; University of Connecticut; email@example.com